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Hand holding a compass in front of a river surrounded by mountains.
By
Brendan Stelmach, Matt Gembecki

While life may feel like it’s on hold, with social distancing and quarantine being observed around the world, a nonprofit’s work never truly stops. Even as economies slow and cities grow quiet, the same needs that nonprofits have always filled still exist, especially as organizations that provide health and human services face more demand than ever. Since need is not decreasing, fundraising must continue in order to allow organizations to execute their important work. 

Recognizing the challenges that have affected all nonprofits since this crisis began, Global Impact hosted a webinar late last month titled “Navigating Your Organization Through COVID-19 and Beyond.” This blog post will highlight the fundraising specific strategies and information shared in this webinar to bring you three key adjustments you can make to your fundraising in order to continue succeeding during this challenging time. You can also review the webinar recording and slide deck.

#1: Identify your COVID-19 lens
When a crisis is as all-consuming, like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vital to demonstrate to all of your stakeholders that your organization is treating this challenge seriously and taking the steps needed to make a difference as we work together to overcome the virus and its effects. 

Global Impact refers to the adjustments needed to react to the virus as the “COVID-19 lens.” There are three key components to crafting your COVID-19 lens, which will demonstrate internally and externally that your organization is sensitive to the emerging needs of this crisis and is responding appropriately.

Center concern. Demonstrate your organization's priorities and commitment to its mission and acknowledge changes that have and still need to occur. This means communicating that health and safety remain paramount to your organization, as well as the steps you’re taking to protect your staff and those you serve. 

Don’t forget to show your appreciation for the dedication of your staff, partners and donors. With many people physically separated from their families, friends and coworkers, cooperation is more important than ever. And acknowledging those that are making sacrifices to help your organization is vital. Centering your concern is key to showing that you are aware of the impact of the pandemic and the severe affect it’s having on the lives of your stakeholders.

Call to action. Difficult times have a way of bringing out the best of dedicated people – use your existing network to call upon those who have supported you in the past, and make it clear why it is more vital than ever for them to support you now. Call out the needs of your organization and the impact you can make during this time, and seek unrestricted funding that will give you maximum flexibility to weather the unpredictability of this crisis. But remember – this crisis has affected everyone, so remain sensitive to the possible toll that potential donors are enduring.

Programmatic pivot. Demonstrate clearly to donors that you are shifting your programs to respond to the crisis and that their support is vital in order to keep the good going. You can work with your program officers to create case studies on the positive change that your programs have created to show that your services remain relevant and needed. At the same time, you should explain the disruptions that have impacted your programs, creating a sense of urgency and agency for donors, making it clear that their contributions will make a huge difference at this time.

#2: Embrace a continuum of approaches
The COVID-19 crisis demands a high degree of institutional flexibility so that your fundraising remains at levels that can sustain your organization’s work. Utilizing multiple vectors of fundraising can be a great way to keep your funding levels sufficient. For example, creating special emergency response funds delivers a clear message of need and urgency for donors. 

While the total number of donors has decreased in the early phases of this crisis, the average gift size has actually increased, demonstrating that donors who are in a position to give are highly motivated to do so. With this in mind, take extra care to evaluate your donor base and find supporters who may be ready to give now. 

Similarly, this crisis is the time to cash in that relational capital you have been saving for a rainy day. Reaching out personally to past funders or strong prospects creates a human connection that reinforces the urgency of the current crisis and will help you close more successfully. Texts, phone calls and hand written notes are additional ways to maintain connections with your key stakeholders. 

This is also a good time to try using new tactics. If you are an organization that is typically dependent on smaller contributions or recurring donations, this may be the time to explore major donor asks as a way to quickly inject revenue and capitalize on any leads you have collected over the years. Additionally, if your organization relies on in-person fundraising, such as galas, exploring virtual engagement can be just as effective for reaching your core audience. 

Donors understand the limitations of physical interaction, and if your message resonated with them before, it certainly will now – as long as you properly apply a COVID-19 lens. Global Impact has seen that there is currently a serious appetite for connection, and virtual meet-ups and events can be extremely effective in providing these interactions for donors. Virtual events also allow for a greater chance to interact with some of your harder-to-reach donors who may not have attended in-person galas. The ease and convenience of online connection can give you new opportunities to interact with them in a meaningful way. 

#3: Identify the potential
This crisis has closed some doors in regards to funding, but it has opened others as well. The international philanthropic community is responding to this crisis seriously, and there is significant funding available. By the end of April, there were already over 1,800 total coronavirus-specific major grants made to organizations – equaling over $8.3 billion in total value. These numbers show that funding is available for COVID-19 response if you tailor your messaging correctly. 

Global Impact’s research has identified that a number of specific funding areas are critical to the response efforts, and these areas are receiving a great deal of the available funds. These include respiratory health, disease response, medical support and supplies, food aid, education, community and economic development, and news and public information. This wide range of relevant fields means that every organization has a role to play in collective response efforts, and that a COVID-19 lens is not only possible, but vital for every organization looking to fundraise today. 

To learn more about Global Impact’s COVID-19 response, visit our COVID-19 Information and Resources page. Contact us today if you’re interested in how we can help your organization through COVID-19 and prepare for the future.

Check out more coronavirus response strategies from our webinar “Navigating Your Organization Through COVID-19 and Beyond” in our previous blog post, 3 tips for nonprofits to understand COVID-19 legislation.

 


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